The Instigator
InquireTruth
Pro (for)
Winning
41 Points
The Contender
feverish
Con (against)
Losing
22 Points

The Jesus of History Probably Existed - D

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 11 votes the winner is...
InquireTruth
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/7/2009 Category: Religion
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,787 times Debate No: 9625
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (26)
Votes (11)

 

InquireTruth

Pro

Introduction:

I will make my case and address the most common arguments presented by the mythological Jesus camp.

The Historicity of Jesus as reported by extrabiblical sources, biblical sources, and basic logic:

The Case of Tacitus:

1. Tacitus was an early Roman historian who wrote early in the 2nd century. In his writings we have a reference to Jesus as the founder of Christianity and his being crucified under the thumb of Pontius Pilate. Unfortunately much of Tacitus' work has been lost, including portions from 29-32 AD – an area which would have included Jesus' trial had he recorded it (1). The Tacitus quote is as follows:

"Hence to suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind."

Tacitus' great historical ability is lauded by most all historians and scholars (2). With Tacitus' reliability it seems unreasonable that he would be wrong in his assessment. Also, Tacitus' obvious disdain for Christianity stands to reason against any notion that Tacitus was biased in the matter.

The Case of Josephus:

2. The Jewish historian Josephus is especially interesting (3). Josephus has given us reliable information regarding the existence of high priests Annas and Caiaphas, the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, King Herod, John the Baptist, even Jesus' brother James. There is a larger passage in Josephus which talks about Christ which is obviously a later Christian interpolation – and there is evidence for that. But Josephus gives us non-disputed testimony for the existence of many biblical characters, and he also has a small passage that talks of Jesus:

"But the younger Ananus who, as we said, received the high priesthood, was of a bold disposition and exceptionally daring; he followed the party of the Sadducees, who are severe in judgment above all the Jews, as we have already shown. As therefore Ananus was of such a disposition, he thought he had now a good opportunity, as Festus was now dead, and Albinus was still on the road; so he assembled a council of judges, and brought before it the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, whose name was James, together with some others, and having accused them as law-breakers, he delivered them over to be stoned (4)."

There is no evidence that such a reference is an interpolation because it is in every extant manuscript we have available. The textual evidence suggests that it is genuine specifically because of the nonchristian terminology and even disagreement with Christian history regarding the martyrdom of James (5).

Extrabiblical Accounts:

3. Also, if we have extrabiblical accounts that verify the identify of most all major biblical characters (including Jesus himself), why would we presume the Gospels to by lying in regards to the identify of Jesus Christ? Recently in 1961 the first archaeological evidence concerning Pilate was unearthed in the town of Caesarea (6). Even more recently, in 1990 the actual tomb of Caiaphas, the high priest who presided over Jesus' trial, was discovered south of Jerusalem (7). We have mounting evidence for the reliability of the NT's biblical characters, which makes it very unlikely that the Gospels are lying. The Gospels are also separate and confirming accounts for the validity of the historical Jesus – to say nothing of the epistles which are an even earlier witness.

Insufficient Time:

4. William Lane Craig points out the fact that, "There was insufficient time for legendary influences to expunge the historical facts (8)." That is to say, no modern scholar thinks of the gospels as bald-faced lies, the result of a massive conspiracy. What is rarely addressed by skeptics is the fact that there was not enough time between Jesus death and the writing of the gospels for there to have been a formulated Jesus legend hypothesis. Many modern scholars respond to the Jesus legend idea by saying, "The fact of Christianity's beginnings and the character of its earliest traditions is such that we could only deny the existence of Jesus by hypothesizing the existence of some other figure who was a sufficient cause of Christianity's beginnings - another figure who on careful reflection would probably come out very like Jesus!"

The Rule of Parsimony:

5. The rule of parsimony applies here (10). It is used explicitly as a criterion for deciding between rival hypotheses of equal explanatory power, and the theory with the least amount of assumptions (the simplest theory) wins. If we were to permit the outrageous idea that the Jesus-myth hypothesis has equal explanatory power, it would be negated and rejected by the law of parsimony. However, as Craig and other scholars point out, since it fails to explain the vast majority of the details - passion of the few, triumph in closed locales, resistance to modification by subsequent cultures, uniformity in variegated sources, etc. - it never even makes it this far. Parsimony, then, is closely related to plausibility, and the most plausible explanation for the origin of Christianity in this regard is that Jesus actually existed.

Common arguments used by Jesus-Mythers:

1. Comparing Osiris, Horus and Jesus

This is the idea that Jesus is merely a derived character from Hellenistic mythology. Mythers compare the life of Jesus to the mythology of Osiris and Horus. Unfortunately, most all of the connections made there is not a shred of evidence for. Therefore, any use of this argument necessitates the use of the original Egyptian literature to back up this claim. Any such regurgitation of Gerald Massey or Godfrey Higgins should promptly be ignored by the voters as dishonest debating.

2. Comparisons with Mediterranean mystery religions

If this argument is to be used, my opponent must supply the sources for the original material and cite extant manuscripts that confirm his hypothesis. The comparisons must also be from sources that predate Christianity. My opponent then must explain how this myth was promulgated in light of the fact that Christianity was a rapidly growing movement so quickly after Jesus' death, with eyewitnesses still alive.

3. All records are after Jesus' lifetime

This argument completely ignores ancient Jewish/Greek/roman culture. Plato himself stated that the spoken word was far superior to written word (9). Plato actually taught that writing can lead to errors and that all it really did was repeat, such repetition, he concluded, is more often than not, unnecessary. Most scholars concluded, then, that the Gospels were not original works but were rather based on even earlier oral tradition. Given the cultures understanding of writing, there is no reason to believe that there would be anything written about Jesus during his lifetime.

Conclusion:

Take note that I still have Suetonius, Pliny, Thallus, Talmud, and Acts of Pilate as extrabiblical sources for the historicity of Jesus.

Sources:

1.http://en.wikipedia.org...
2.�Shattering the Christ Myth, p. 54
3.http://en.wikipedia.org...
4. Antiquities 20.9.1
5.http://en.wikipedia.org...
6.http://en.wikipedia.org...
7.http://www.kchanson.com...
8.http://www.leaderu.com...
9. http://www.grantstavely.com...
feverish

Con

Thanks to InquireTruth for agreeing to this debate and setting it up. Hopefully we will both learn from it.

As an Agnostic I don't claim to know for a fact whether Jesus existed or not, so to a certain extent I am playing devil's advocate here, with much of the material I intend to use being the result of recent research.

I do however believe I can provide enough evidence to cast a reasonable amount of doubt about the likelihood of Jesus existing, thereby fulfilling my burden in this debate.

I'll respond to my opponent's first round points before presenting some arguments of my own.

---

1. Tacitus.

There are several problems with the validity of this extract as evidence for Jesus but first I'd like to challenge an assertion my opponent makes.

PRO: "much of Tacitus' work has been lost, including portions from 29-32 AD an area which would have included Jesus' trial had he recorded it"

My opponent provides a link to this page: http://en.wikipedia.org... to prove this point but according to this, the missing portions describe the period after the death of Tiberius, whereas the extract claims that 'Christus' was put to death "in the reign of Tiberius".

In response to the suggestion that Tacitus is reliable on these issues, I must point out a clear inaccuracy within this same extract. Pilate is described as a "procurator" although his actual role in Judea was as a prefect. http://en.wikipedia.org...

This suggests one of two things: either Tacitus is not so reliable after all, or this extract has been added by another, less knowledgeable, or perhaps even deceitful individual.

The word "Christus" is a title rather than a proper name and means Messiah or 'anointed one'. Many individuals in Jewish culture including all High Priests could have used this title.
"The term moshiach is used in the Hebrew Bible to describe Israelite priests, prophets, and kings who were anointed with oil in consecration to their respective offices. For example, Cyrus the Great, the king of Persia, is referred to as "God's anointed" (Messiah) in the Bible." http://en.wikipedia.org...

The oldest manuscript for this extract has been corrupted and tampered with, the word for 'Christians' is a mistranslation. This pic shows the gap in the word where an erased e is still visible under IR light. http://en.wikipedia.org...
Christianos means Christians, chrestianos means 'good people'.

Lastly, many scholarly Christian believers have disputed the notion that this extract proves the existence of Jesus Christ.
"Tacitus and Pliny the Younger reflect instead what they have heard Christians of their own day say. Despite various claims, no early rabbinic text ... contains information about Jesus".
http://www.bsw.org...

----

2. Josephus.

My opponent acknowledges the fraudulence of the Jesus passage in the Testimonium Flavianum, is it not plausible that the passing reference in Antiquity of the Jews is not also an "interpolation"?

The fact is this passage makes much more sense, both grammatically and in context if the words "the so-called Christ" (a less loaded translation would be "who was called Christ" as per http://www.sacred-texts.com...) are removed.

After my opponent's quotation ends, the text goes onto explain that in reparation for the stoning of James, "king Agrippa took the high priesthood from him, when he had ruled but three months, and made Jesus, the son of Damneus, high priest."

This Jesus is clearly the brother of this James. Both names were extremely common in this period, Josephus himself refers to at least ten other people called Jesus. Although I maintain that "who was called Christ" s probably an insertion, as a high priest Jesus of Damneus could well have been titled Christ too.

If this is really James the Just then he wouldn't have needed an introduction as anyone else's brother or son as he was supposedly a well known community leader and the Bishop of Jerusalem.

The fact that this extract conflicts with the Christian history of James' martyrdom surely supports my position more than that of my opponent. Different Jesus, different James.

The idea that Jesus Christ existed but is not mentioned elsewhere by Josephus is unlikely in the extreme.

---

3.

My opponent argues that since the gospels make reference to genuine historical figures of the era they are probably accurate about Jesus. The fact that there is historical evidence of these other figures but not of Jesus actually suggests the opposite. The gospels started out as an updating of Hebrew scripture and myth into their modern surroundings.

Referring to the gospels as "separate and confirming accounts for the validity of the historical Jesus" is very misleading as it ignores the synoptic problem that the other gospels are all interpretations of Mark and contain much of the same text.

---

4.

As I will discuss further, my hypothesis is that the elements of the gospel story were already in place within Old Testament scripture.

To say: "there was not enough time between Jesus death and the writing of the gospels" assumes he existed in the first place.

As for "some other figure who was a sufficient cause of Christianity's beginnings" we need look no further than Paul.

---

5. As there is no non-biblical evidence for Jesus and his existence would have been note-worthy, I think Occam's razor precludes the creation of the unnecessary entity that is Christ.

---

I wasn't intending to use Egyptian mythology as part of my argument but I thank my opponent for bringing up the fact that there are indeed many parallels between the story of Christ and other mythologies.

I will limit my references to mystery religions accordingly.

PRO: "Given the cultures understanding of writing, there is no reason to believe that there would be anything written about Jesus during his lifetime."

On the contrary, the fact that Plato was bemoaning the popularity of writing over speech proves that writing was growing in favour in his time. Philo and many other prolific local writers were recording events at this time but none mention Jesus.

Additionally Plato is obviously incorrect here as oral traditions are far more susceptible to corruption than written ones. Ever played Chinese whispers?
____

I have very little space remaining for my own contentions, so I will only present a few and briefly in this round.

1. The epistles of Paul are recognised as being the first wrings to mention Jesus Christ and to predate the gospels( see S.G.F Brandon: Religion In Ancient History p.228). Many of Paul's letters have been proved to be written later than others and/or to have been edited by later writers but if we examine the texts that have been reliably attributed to him, one interesting fact leaps out.
None of these writings refer to a flesh and blood Christ that recently lived on Earth and many of the statements made only make sense if 'Jesus Christ' is a metaphorical heavenly symbol of redemption.

2. The gospel of Mark pre-dates the other gospels and they all copied text from it. Mark is not written in the style of a historical document but rather in the style of allegorical fiction.

3. The details of the life of Jesus and the sayings attributed to him in the gospels are almost entirely based on Old Testament scriptures, in some cases they are based on obvious mistranslations.

4. Before Christianity was re-packaged and marketed by the Catholic Church, there were many different philosophies about the existence of Christ including those which claimed he never existed as a man, as evidenced by Origen's Commentary on the Gospel of John.

As I consider my opponent's arguments effectively rebutted, I should hopefully have enough character space to expand on these points and present new ones in the next round.
Debate Round No. 1
InquireTruth

Pro

1.Tacitus

Unfortunately, my opponent misread the source and consequently cited me for error where error was not. Parts of books 5 and 6 are missing. It is verifiably certain – as a reading of the annals will attest – �portions from 29-32 AD are indeed among those missing (1).

Despite widespread scholastic acceptance of Tacitus' accuracy as a historian, my opponent seeks to disqualify this understanding by pointing out a singled alleged error. Even if the error were truly that, it would be an affront to both historical and textual criticism to suggest that such a mistake is enough to distrust the honesty of the author. Here is what the Jesus critic and historical scholar, Richard Carrier has to say about the issue:

"There is no ancient history that is entirely accurate and without lies, distortions, or errors. Every qualified historian today agrees with that.(2)"

"It seems evident from all the source material available that the post was always a prefecture, and also a procuratorship. Pilate was almost certainly holding both posts simultaneously, a practice that was likely established from the start when Judaea was annexed in 6 A.D ...(3)"

So not only is my opponent wrong in assuming a single error would change the reliability of the source in question, but he is demonstrably wrong about the error ascribed to said source.

Now there is a reason why Tacitus scholars are virtually unanimous on who Tacitus is referring. As for Christus being a title that any whose-who would have, that is incorrect with Tacitus' use. Tacitus uses Christus in a way that assumes his audience is very familiar with the person in question. Furthermore, there is only one so-called Christ who was supposedly put to death by Pontius Pilate. Moreover, Chrestians was a common misspelling at the time. As is evidence, even Christians said Chrestians, as even an extant Manuscript of Acts uses Chrestian instead of Christian (4). Christ, a Greek title, was easy to confuse with the Latin. Even still, there are no good reasons for believing that the copyist himself was not the one who fixed the mistake.

So what are we left with?
(1)The excerpt does not make sense if it is not referring to Jesus.
(2)Even if it said Chrestian, it would suggest a common misspelling and not a different group.
(3)Even if we could definitely prove that Christian was changed from Chrestian, there are no good reasons for believing it was not the copyist himself who made the correction.

Lastly, did Tacitus borrow information from Christians? His remarkable ability as a historian is already in friction with this notion. There are no good reasons for believing that Tacitus took from Christian sources because (1) he wrote in a very negative tone regarding Christians, and (2) he never took information from Pliny uncritically. In Annals 15.53, Tacitus disputes and considers Pliny's information as absurd.

2.The Case of Josephus

My opponent starts out with a wholly irrelevant argument:
"is it not plausible that the passing reference in Antiquity of the Jews is not also an "interpolation'?"

Of course it is possible. It is also possible that every single thing written in history was written by someone other than the person traditionally ascribed. That is irrelevant. The real question should be, "is it likely?" And to that question, the answer is emphatically NO.

Lets look at the points:

(A) My opponent claims it reads "better" without the addition of the "so-called Christ."
Who cares, every extant manuscript says the so-called Christ. We have no good reasons, stylistically or textually speaking, for thinking it was not Josephus who wrote it.

(B) My opponent claims that the Jesus mentioned later on in the text is the same Jesus mentioned as being the brother of James.
It is too bad my opponent thinks this to be so clear – given his own admission that Jesus was a common name. You cannot blame my opponent for being unaware of the historical method and textual criticism, but on this point it is fundamentally important. First, it is customary for Josephus to use relationships as a means of identification (father and son). In fact, it was very common during Josephus' time to use DIFFERENT means of identification when dealing with two separate people who had the same name. Josephus, when making first introductions, would identify the person with another known character or place – in order to stem confusion. The idea that the Jesus, the son of Damneus, are the same people, would be stylistically out of character for Josephus, and contra ancient use of identification.

(C)Christ JUST means anointed
This is historically false. Christos had enormous political implications and it would be unimaginable that any High Priest would bare it. Moreover, it is impossible that they could have been referring to the same Jesus because the latter Jesus was yet to be anointed – insofar as every High Priest was anointed when appointed. Yet the former Jesus was already called "anointed (5)(6)."

(D)But he should have written more.
This is an argument from silence, and a poor one at that. Not only does it assume that the 2nd mentioning of Jesus Christ by Josephus is a COMPLETE interpolation (many scholars conclude it was just tampered with), but it assumes that Josephus had good reasons for writing more about Jesus. In fact, "for the entire period of 10 years around which Jesus died, Josephus devotes only "one small page" in his War, and six pages in the Antiquities. Therefore, it is actually quite significant that Josephus devotes any attention to Jesus at all.(7)"

3.Reliability of Gospels

First, my opponent suggests that there is no history regarding the person of Jesus, and that would somehow suggest that he therefore did not exist (a non sequitur). This ignores the fact that those so recorded are ones who fall under certain categories.
1.Jesus did not change the political, social, or economic climate of Palestine
2. Jesus was executed as a criminal – making him significantly marginalized
3. He associated with societies rejects – offending many people
4. His own lifestyle was offensive to many
5. He was a poor carpenter living in a land full of wealthy urbanites

Another point my opponent needs to grapple with is a historical one. First, the four accounts of Jesus' life are written by three eye witnesses and one who was well acquainted with eye witnesses. Every extant manuscript available confirms this. Moreover, the gospels are rife with verifiably accurate archeological facts, and many archeological facts that were first known through the Gospels. Furthermore, the remaining extant manuscripts and their age render the Gospels (according to any unbiased historical model) inherently more reliable than any other ancient source whose veracity is not questioned.

The only thing that can be gathered from a supposed synoptic problem, is that there was an even earlier oral tradition from which the authors used. There independence from each other can be seen clearly here: http://bible.org...

This question must be asked: According to what historical model are you using that allows you to disregard the history in the Gospels and not any other ancient sources that contain inherently less evidence, fewer and younger manuscripts, and rely on secondary sources (e.g. Alexander the Great, to name just one)?

Conclusion:

I'll refute my opponent's contentions in my following round.
Sources:
1. http://www.sacred-texts.com...
2. http://www.reasonablefaith.org...
3. http://www.tektonics.org...
4.http://en.wikipedia.org...
5.http://explanationblog.wordpress.com...
6.http://www.ucg.org...
7.http://www.tektonics.org...
feverish

Con

Tacitus and Josephus.

I want to get on to some more interesting points so I won't dwell on this for too long. The fact is that these are the only two shreds of potential evidence for historical accounts of Jesus over which there is any debate at all, all others having been proved as either false beyond any doubt or entirely irrelevant as historical evidence.

1. Tacitus

Richard Carrier's opinion is not particularly relevant and the two quotes effectively contradict each other as he is attacking the reliability of this kind of source while making assumptions based on it.

Pilate's role was definitely as a prefect and it is suggested on his Wiki page that other sources identifying him as procurator took the lead from Tacitus. http://en.wikipedia.org...

My opponent has provided a Jesus skeptic to support one detail of the Tacitus extract but ignores the fact that many Christian scholars completely disregard Tacitus as evidence.

"(Tacitus') independent knowledge is unverifiable. As R. T. France concludes, while the evidence from Tacitus corroborates the New Testament accounts of the death of Jesus,'by itself it cannot prove that events happened as Tacitus had been informed', or even the existence of Jesus." - Robert E. Van Voorst. http://jesuspuzzle.humanists.net...

What we are in fact left with is:
(1) There are missing portions of the annals.
(2) The manuscripts contain errors and have been altered or tampered with.
(3) Even if 100% genuine, this extract provides no real evidence of Jesus existing.

2. Josephus

I believe I have given reasons why the "who was called Christ" phrase in this extract is likely (plausible) to be a later addition. The other Josephus extract is and as the earliest manuscript is dated to the 11th century the fact that all extant copies include it proves nothing. http://en.wikipedia.org...

In response to my claim that the sentence makes more grammatical and contextual sense with the suspect phrase removed, my opponent says: "Who cares?"

I would think that anyone with a passing interest in learning the truth of this matter.

The passage about Jesus son of Damneus receiving the priesthood as atonement for the wrongdoing makes no sense unless this is the same Jesus that is brother to this James.

It is not "historically false" to translate Messiah/Christ as 'anointed', my opponent's own link in attempt to refute this [ http://www.ucg.org... ] says: "it was not only kings who were anointed in Scripture. Israel's high priests were anointed".
_____

3.Reliability of Gospels

My opponent seems to be accepting the lack of any real historical evidence for Jesus as we move on to discussing the Bible.

He lists five reasons why Jesus' life (as depicted in the gospels) would have been unlikely to merit historical record. In response I will provide some reasons why his life (as depicted in the gospels) would have been extremely worthy of note.

1. His (alleged) birth was accompanied by a new star in the sky pointing at him and a visit by notable Eastern mystics.
2. He (allegedly) survived a nationwide massacre of infants and would have been the only male in his age group.
3. John the Baptist and others (allegedly) proclaimed him as God's only son.
4. He (allegedly) performed numerous miracles including healings, resurrections and spontaneous generation of food.
5. He was (allegedly) publicly executed during Passover festival which would have been unthinkable for Jewish custom.
6. His (alleged) death was accompanied by an earthquake and solar eclipse.
7. He was believed to have been born to a virgin and to come back to life when killed.

My opponent says: "the four accounts of Jesus' life are written by three eye witnesses and one who was well acquainted with eye witnesses."

There is much disagreement on this issue and this statement should not be presented as fact.

None of the gospels are signed and only one, John (incidentally the one written last and with the most obvious differences from the others) even makes any claim in the text to be the account of a witness.

Mark was supposedly written by Peter's interpreter, so not a direct eye witness, this first gospel is now generally agreed to have been written after the destruction of the temple in AD 70 and some scholars date it to the 2nd century, which would rule out any possibility of gospels being written by witnesses. http://en.wikipedia.org...

The writer of Luke identifies himself as a follower of Paul, so is not an eye witness even by association, Paul's belief being based on revelation rather than observation.

I am a little confused by the link my opponent provided to supposedly prove the "independence" of the synoptic gospels. http://bible.org... Although I haven't read all of this very lengthy article it is clearly arguing for the literary inTERdependence of these books which was my point here. To quote:

"It is quite impossible to hold that the three synoptic gospels were completely independent from each other...There are four crucial arguments which virtually prove literary interdependence."

It seems my opponent would benefit from reading more carefully.
Plausibility =/= possibility. Independence =/= Interdependence.
_____

4. Paul

The letters attributed to Paul and in particular those generally agreed to be written by him are the earliest documents that refer to Jesus, predating the gospels by decades. http://en.wikipedia.org...

Paul never claimed to have witnessed a physical incarnation of Jesus, he instead spoke at length about his spiritual revelation of Christ. Moreover he confirms none of the history presented in the gospels and much of what he writes makes little sense unless he is referring to Jesus as a purely spiritual entity.

There are a very few paragraphs (or verses) that seem to refer vaguely to some of the supposed events of Jesus' life so it's important to examine these.

A list can be found in this link along with the usual weak historical arguments. http://www.bede.org.uk...

A few have certainly been added by a later source as they do not appear in all manuscripts, don't sit well in context and are historically inaccurate. The most obvious example of these later Christian alterations is in 1 Thessalonians 2. http://www.jstor.org...

At least one is a mistranslation/misinterpretation, 1 Cor. 2:8 s "rulers of this age" is paraphrased by bede.org as "earthly rulers" whereas the original word "Archon" is generally used to refer to heavenly authorities elsewhere in the Bible as confirmed by Origen. http://rationalrevolution.net...

Most of these simply make much more sense in the context of a purely spiritual Christ and a symbolic heavenly crucifixion as do Paul's letters on the whole.

This is not an argument of silence, I am concerned with what Paul DID say.

I am almost out of space in this round but will briefly list some of the points and passages I wish to discuss further in round 3:

1) Paul speaks often of Christ COMING to Earth, not RETURNING to Earth.
2) The 'story' of the crucifixion is an allegory of the sacrificial lamb at Passover.
3) Romans 10:14-17 "how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?....faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word about Christ."
4) Ephesians 3:3-5 "the mystery was made known to me by revelation....as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit"
5) Galatians 3:1 "Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly PORTRAYED as crucified"

And many more.

Thanks.
Debate Round No. 2
InquireTruth

Pro

Introduction:

My opponent opens his 2nd round with an unsubstantiated and wholly incorrect assertion. First he claims that the only two "shreds" of evidence are Tacitus and Josephus (which, even if true, is more than we can say for many historical figures whose veracity is unquestioned). He goes on to claim that the Gospels are either wholly irrelevant or false. Does he expect us to take his tenuous assertion as fact? Let's hope his next round will provide some substance.

It seems he would have taken my prior point with more consideration. Typically when one provides a fatally damning point to an argument, it needs to be addressed before the argument can be reasserted. So, in response to his disregard to the Gospels as historical records, I'll ask the question again: According to what historical model are you using that allows you to disregard the history in the Gospels and not any other ancient sources that contain inherently less evidence, fewer and younger manuscripts, and rely on secondary sources (e.g. Alexander the Great, to name just one)?

Tacitus:

Unfortunately, Richard Carrier's opinion on the matter is especially pertinent, given the fact that he is a qualified Historian in the field.

What we know:
(1) All historical manuscripts contain error – this does not discount their reliability.
(2) "And since it is more insulting (to an elitist like Tacitus and his readers) to be a procurator, and even more insulting to be executed by one, it is likely Tacitus chose that office out of his well-known sense of malicious wit. Tacitus was also a routine employer of variatio, deliberately seeking nonstandard ways of saying things (it is one of several markers of Tacitean style). So there is nothing unusual about his choice here." (http://www.tektonics.org...) So not only was Tacitus both a procurator and a prefect, but we have good stylistic reasons for believing he would use the former.

"that many Christian scholars"

If by many my opponent means a very slim minority – I have no qualms (could my opponent name a few more please). Unfortunately for my opponent however, those very same scholars accept the historical veracity of Jesus.

Josephus:

My opponent disregards my real point in regards to his grammatical assertion. Judging by ALL of Josephus' writings, we have no good reasons, based on style and textual criticism, for believing it was a later addition. So the fact that my opponent THINKS it reads better without it, can be responded to as I already have – who cares? If you want to claim it is stylistically out of character, give me a source to the detailed study that appropriately utilizes historical and textual criticism.

(1) The latter Jesus was not anointed yet, so he wouldn't be CALLED the anointed.
(2) He was distinguished using a different means of identification.
(3) Christ was used as a title, which is different from being anointed, it is being called "the anointed." This had huge political implications as it marked the Messiah.

My opponent did not address my other points.

The Bible:

First, the Bible IS historical evidence. Need I repeat myself: the gospels are rife with verifiably accurate archeological facts, and many archeological facts that were first known through the Gospels. The remaining extant manuscripts and their age render the Gospels (according to any unbiased historical model) inherently more reliable than any other ancient source whose veracity is not questioned.

My opponents reasons for thinking that Jesus should have been more notable in the secular histories are irrelevant. As it was precisely because of what Jesus was alleged to have done that made him so personally offensive to the powers that were. Believing that a person existed is quite different than believing the things they had allegedly done. Why report about Jesus if they did not believe in any of the things he supposedly did?

As for the source, a reading would show that they are both interdependent and independent (At least my mistakes were made after reading the source I criticized).

If the Gospels (save for John) were not written by the persons said to have written them, why in the world do we not have any other surviving tradition that asserts a different author? Second-century testimony clearly attributes the authorship of the Gospels to those persons whose names the books now bear. It would be very likely that, if the Gospels had circulated unanimously for 60 years without an ascribed author, that, like many other apocryphal writings, a smorgasbord of differing titles would have arisen – this is not the case. Moreover, if the authors were arbitrarily chosen, they certainly would have done well to choose more respected authors, not a tax collector (Matthew), a virtual enigma who is mentioned twice (Luke), and a kid who left Paul high and dry (Mark).

There is no available text that is without title. My opponent would do well in showing some extant manuscripts that do not have a title attributing the authorship to its supposed author, or, better yet, that attribute it to some other person.

On Parsimony:

My opponent does not understand that denying the existence of an entity can amount to numerous assumptions (any theory with the least amount of assumptions and the same explanatory power is to be preferred, per Occam).

Here are the assumptions:
1. Matthew was not written by an eyewitness.
2. Luke and acts were not written by an eyewitness.
3. John was lying and was not indeed an eyewitness.
4. The author of Peter's epistles was lying and was indeed not the apostle Peter.
5. The author of Jude was lying and it was not written by the brother of Jesus.
6. The author of James was lying and not written by the brother of Jesus.
7. Paul was lying and he did not actually meet and talk with numerous eye witnesses.

Since all these assumptions are poised against contradicting evidence, and are based on little or no evidence at all, it seems probable that at least one of these assumptions is incorrect. If one of these assumptions is incorrect then my opponent can not rightly claim that we do not have eyewitness attestation for the existence Jesus.

Insufficient Time:

My opponent misses the mark. If Jesus was not a historical character, it is very unlikely that a formulated Jesus mythology could have formulated so quickly after his supposed death. The problem is that the time between the events themselves and the authorship of the gospels is too short for the MEMORY OF WHAT ORIGINALLY HAPPENED (or had not happened) to be erased.

Paul:

Mark can be reliably dated mid to late 50's (1). My opponent misunderstands Biblical language and consequently makes some blatant theological errors. Spiritual man =/ immaterial man. It is precisely because scholars understand biblical language that the vast majority of them agree that Paul believed in the actual, PHYSICAL resurrection of Jesus (http://www.reasonablefaith.org...).
The dichotomy of Spiritual and Natural is merely between those who conform to worldly things and those who conform to spiritual things.

My opponent goes on to say that Paul only vaguely refers to occurrences in Jesus' life. His own source, however, seems to disagree, "It turns out that careful analysis of the letters shows that Paul was not actually all that silent at all." (http://www.bede.org.uk...)

In fact, lets look at some things his own source points out.
1. Paul believed Jesus died and was buried (1 Cor. 15:4)
2. Jesus was born of a woman and had ministry with the Jews (Galatians 4:4).
3. Jesus was human and a decedent of David (Romans 1:3)
4. Jesus had a human brother, James (Galatians 1:19).
5. Jesus physically initiated the last supper and was physically betrayed (1Cor. 11:23-25)

And much more.

Source:
1.J ohn Robinson,�Redating the New Testament
feverish

Con

Introduction:

My opponent says: "My opponent opens his 2nd round with an unsubstantiated and wholly incorrect assertion. First he claims that the only two "shreds" of evidence are Tacitus and Josephus."

I have been quoted somewhat out context. What I actually said was that the Tacitus and Josephus extracts are "the only two shreds of potential evidence for historical accounts of Jesus OVER WHICH THERE IS ANY DEBATE at all, all others having been proved as either false beyond any doubt or entirely irrelevant as historical evidence."

The gospels can not be regarded as historical in the same way as other non-religious documents simply because of their religious nature.

The most powerful organisation in human history, the Roman catholic church has been shown to have controlled and edited their contents. People have never been executed or burned alive for criticising conventional historical texts. Reliable historical works do not contain descriptions of supernatural events.

There seems to be a great deal of reliable historical and archaeological evidence for the existence of Alexander the Great. http://en.wikipedia.org... As Alexander has not been worshipped as a god or had religions started in his name there have been less people over history with an interest in distorting information about him than about Jesus.

Tacitus:

So Tacitus' work contains errors (like all history), omissions and corrections by third-parties (eg. Chrestianos). Richard Carrier's opinion that, despite evidence to the contrary, the reference to Pilate's role is in fact correct,(as well as being a rather witty insult) is indeed irrelevant.

There are indeed "many Christian scholars [that] completely disregard Tacitus as evidence" of the existence of Jesus. Already in this debate I have referenced John P. Meier in round 1 and both Robert Van Voorst and R.T. France in round 2.

Others include E.P. Sanders and the same William Lane Craig earlier cited by my opponent, as quoted on this page: http://www.rationalresponders.com...

Josephus:

My opponent says I did not respond to some of his points here. Looking back all I can find is "it is actually quite significant that Josephus devotes any attention to Jesus at all."

As my argument has been that both Josephus extracts (rather than just one as acknowledged by Pro) are later additions and that Josephus DIDN'T mention Jesus, there is no real response I can give.

Meanwhile my opponent has ignored my points about the late date and shifted the argument of grammar on to style. A good source that examines the grammatical inconsistency and the stylistic aberration of James' introduction as well as the historical flaws with Christian interpretations of this extract is:

http://vridar.wordpress.com...

The Bible:

As stated above, sacred texts are not generally considered to be impartial historical observation. It would be interesting to know what archaeological facts they confirm or provide as I am aware of none.

There is no reason to think writers like Philo would have ignored what was claimed of Jesus if he did exist, nor that they would have been inclined to suppress information about him.http://en.wikipedia.org... Philo lived and wrote in the alleged period and location of Jesus and his writings are paraphrased in the opening of the gospel of John. http://en.wikipedia.org... He never mentioned Jesus.

Regarding the source my opponent supplied http://bible.org... I have indeed read it all and it completely supports interdependence and Markan priority while playing down the significance of the possibly verbal 'Q document'. It categorically denies the concept of independence which my opponent cited it for. To quote from it again: "It is popular today among laymen to think in terms of independence....This explanation falls short on several fronts."

When (two) of the gospels are apparently first mentioned by Justin Martyr in the mid 2nd century they do not have these titles and are referred to as "memoirs of the apostles". http://www.churchofreality.org... Many other "gospels" with conflicting information but some of the same events were rejected by the church as they sought to dictate religious orthodoxy. Obviously copies of the approved gospels with conflicting authorship would not have been allowed to circulate.

On Parsimony:

My opponent says: "any theory with the least amount of assumptions and the same explanatory power is to be preferred, per Occam".

Clearly it requires less assumption to presume the gospels are fiction than to believe they are true.

Insufficient Time:

My opponent says: "the time between the events themselves and the authorship of the gospels is too short for the MEMORY OF WHAT ORIGINALLY HAPPENED (or had not happened) to be erased."

This makes very little sense to me. How can a memory of what has not happened be erased?

My opponent has ignored my points about Luke, Mark, John and Paul not being eyewitnesses.

Paul:

There are many dates suggested for the composition of Mark, finding one source (with no weblink) that says AD 50 and calling it reliable does not make it so. As mentioned above, there is a great deal of consensus placing it after AD 70 and some claims of a 2nd century date.
AD 50 is a very early date to be suggesting. Bible.org says AD 64-69 http://bible.org... and the Catholic Encyclopedia concedes it may have been written as late as AD 67 http://www.newadvent.org...

My opponent's reasonablefaith.org source mentions that the same Richard Carrier my opponent calls a historical "expert" agrees that Paul never refers to a physical Jesus and the semantic arguments on this page are somewhat tiresome.

I have already responded to several of the supposed references cited in the Bede.org article (that was my intention in providing it) but I don't tend to use up my character allowance arguing against each and everyone of them, especially when my opponent has not responded to any of my citations from Paul.

Briefly, numbers 1 and 5 make perfect sense as a metaphorical description of a heavenly sacrifice ritual based on the Passover. The reference to James as the brother of Christ could well refer to brotherhood in the sense of 'knowing' or being at one with rather than a familial relationship. The other two are a little harder to explain away but as we have seen, many insertions and alterations have been made to these letters and these two sole hints of a human Jesus could well be further examples.

________

1) Paul speaks often of Christ COMING to Earth, not RETURNING to Earth.
2) The 'story' of the crucifixion is an allegory of the sacrificial lamb at Passover.
3) Romans 10:14-17 "how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?....faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word about Christ."
4) Ephesians 3:3-5 "the mystery was made known to me by revelation....as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit"
5) Galatians 3:1 "Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly PORTRAYED as crucified"

All these facts about Paul's concept of Christ and these statements and many others from his letters clearly contradict the literal story presented in the gospels and only make sense if Paul believes that Christ's crucifixion took place at the hands of the "the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places" (Eph 3:10) and his appearance in Earth is yet to occur ( "our commonwealth is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ." Phi 3:20, "Out of Zion will come the Deliverer; he will banish ungodliness from Jacob." Rom 11:26").

Thanks.

Con.
Debate Round No. 3
InquireTruth

Pro

Introduction:

I was spot on in my assessment of how my opponent opened his last round. He is wholly incorrect that contemporary historians do not use the Gospels as historical accounts (http://www.amazon.com...). Wikipedia sums it up as follows, "scholars in the fields of biblical studies and history agree that Jesus was a Jewish teacher from Galilee who was regarded as a healer, was baptized by John the Baptist, was accused of sedition against the Roman Empire, and on the orders of Roman Governor Pontius Pilate was sentenced to death by crucifixion." How could these scholars come to this uniform consensus without relying on the Gospels as historical documents? Since my opponent has shown a habit of avoiding the question, I'll ask it right at the beginning to make sure he does not forget: According to what historical model are you using that allows you to disregard the history in the Gospels and not any other ancient sources that contain inherently less evidence, fewer and younger manuscripts, and rely on secondary sources?

"The gospels can not be regarded as historical in the same way as other non-religious documents simply because of their religious nature."

Aside from this sentence making no sense, it is very wrong in what I believe to be its intended meaning. According to whom is it not regarded as historical? According to what historical method? Why is this not practiced by contemporary scholars? Moreover, we continue to discover manuscripts to this day – I suppose my opponent also intends to suggest that all these were altered by the Catholic Church? As for Alexander the great, we only have secondary sources, the earliest biography being 400 years after his death...

So far as I can tell, my opponent has a very biased and contorted historical lens.

Tacitus:

It seems my opponents only remaining argument against Tacitus can be phrased thusly, "But some Christian scholars disregard Tacitus as evidence." As this is still a minority opinion, it does not really say much. Moreover, if the criterion used to decide scholars who "disregard" Tacitus as evidence is anything like the William Lane Craig quote, I'm very unimpressed, dumbfounded actually. Saying Tacitus relied on Christian tradition is a long shot from disregarding him as accurate testimony. In fact, even if he DID rely on Christian tradition, there are no good reasons for believing he accepted them uncritically – as shown in my earlier round.

Josephus:

My opponent's reaming argument now focuses on the "so-called Christ" being a later addition. My opponent gives a source for someone who "analyzed the text." Unfortunately, seeing that it makes many amateurish mistakes as noted here http://www.tektonics.org... I believe it is safe to say that this is not the kind the study I was looking for. The kind of study I'm looking for has already been done (1), and has concluded that the veracity of this second Josephus passage cannot be reasonably questioned on textual grounds.

The Bible:

My opponent is not aware of archeological facts confirmed by the Bible, let me enlighten him. Of course Ciaphas, Pilate, and John the Baptist were mentioned earlier in my first round. The Hitites were known only through the Bible until they were archeologically discovered. The Jerusalem wall was discovered, known first through the Bible. Biblical Archeological Review, and many scholars maintain the authenticity of the James ossuary (which contains Jesus' name). I am not going to waste my space with the numerous discoveries. As this is a minor point, see the video for more information.

The silence of Philo is nothing but that, an argument from silence. We know that Christianity existed at that time, yet Philo makes no mention of that movement either – maybe because it was not big enough to form a threat or because silence is the biggest insult.

John 1:1's adaption of Philo's logos is irrelevant, as it has nothing to do with whether or not Philo would have reported either Christ or the Christian movement.

Regarding the independence of the Gospels, perhaps I'll supply a source that requires less reading between the lines (overlapping of Q and the conclusion of a two-source hypothesis are examples literary independence FYI). Markan priority is almost unanimously accepted, and Luke and Matthew's use of it is clear. However, Mark and Matthew have there own unique sources, making them independent (http://en.wikipedia.org...). This explains Matthew and Lukes non-Markan material.

On Parsimony:

"Clearly it requires less assumption to presume the gospels are fiction than to believe they are true. "

Either my opponent is being intellectual dishonest, obstinate, or is operating with a complete misunderstanding of parsimony. First, he needs to prove his assertion. Second, the moment he understands why calling Pontius Pilate fictional is not parsimonious is the moment he understands why denying the existence of certain persons or the veracity of certain documents does not count as one assumption.

My points stand.

Insufficient Time:

It is too bad my opponent is not understanding this point, as it is an important one.
Consider you have lived in the same neighborhood for 30 years. Imagine someone comes and tells you that a man named Bob Jerky lived just a few blocks down from you and he healed people and manipulated matter, and he often had large followings of people – and he generally always called attention to himself. But there is one slight problem – you, and all your surrounding neighbors, have never heard of this man, indeed, the house he supposedly lived in had been occupied for 35 years.

You would rightly disagree with the person telling you this.

Similarly, there is no way that this movement could have spread so rapidly during the time that supposed eyewitnesses were still alive – but it did.

Paul:

Any dates after AD 70 are based on a presuppositional bias – similar to my opponent's presuppositions of antisupernaturalism that cause him to discount the Gospels entirely. Presuppositional biases are a historical no-no.

My opponent is also under the estranged conviction that I need to address his citations of Paul. But this is unneeded if I can prove from the text that Paul believed in a physical Jesus. Instead my opponent casually casts them aside – even saying that some of them may have been later additions (another example of presuppositional bias). SHOW ME THE EVIDENCE OF LATER ADDITION. Moreover, show me the example where individual persons (not plurality brothers in Christ) are referred to as the brother of Jesus (http://en.wikipedia.org...).

1. It is pretty clear in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:22, that Paul is referring to Christ coming back – insofar as he first died and resurrected and now we wait.
2. You would have to prove that it is not historical before you can maintain it is an allegory.
3. Blessed are those who are sent... Talking about how Christians need to be carriers of the good news.
4. Talking about the mystery of God's grace to the gentiles...
5. The Greek prographo here is writing term and has to do with public exhibition. Christ's death should have been clear enough in their lives as to prevent them from being bewitched (http://net.bible.org...).
6. Ephesians 3:10 is not referring to Christ's crucifixion...
7. Philippians 3:20 seems to align pretty well with traditional eschatology, we await Jesus to come from heaven.
8. Romans 11:26 is citing Isaiah! Israel has a temporary hardening until the full number of gentiles come in. I'm getting suspicious that my opponent has not read any of the related context for any of his listed verses.

Source:
1. France, R. T. "The Evidence for Jesus," 1986.
feverish

Con

Allow me to apologise in advance for the brevity and general inadequacy of my argument this round. Due to family matters, I am currently away from my computer and my home and am writing this from an internet caf� in Dublin. It is a shame that I am not able to provide full attention to this most interesting debate at present and I apologise to my opponent and to readers.

Historical value of the gospels:

At the risk of repeating myself, the only "historical model" I am using is the basic fact that sacred texts are not generally held to be historical and that texts which describe supernatural events would generally be disregarded by any historian worth the title.
As I have shown in previous rounds there is no "uniform consensus" of regarding Jesus as historical.

Traditional western academia has grown from within a Christian framework and as mentioned previously, criticising or questioning the Bible would have been regarded as heretical in past centuries. My opponent would do well to provide an example of a non Judeo-Christian sacred text being regarded as a historically accurate document.

Tacitus:

"It seems my opponents only remaining argument against Tacitus can be phrased thusly, "But some Christian scholars disregard Tacitus as evidence."

This is not my only argument, the examples were provided in direct response to my opponent's request for more examples of Christian scholars with this opinion.

His work contains errors, omissions and additions and even if accurate his description of the belief of Christians can not be counted as evidence for these beliefs being true.

Josephus:

"My opponent's reaming [sic] argument now focuses on the "so-called Christ" being a later addition."

This has in fact been my (main) argument from the beginning as a re-reading of my 1st round argument will confirm.

My opponent claims my source is "amateurish" while his is reliable but hopefully readers will examine both sources rather than taking him at his word. My opponent unsurprisingly favours the study conducted from a Christian perspective.

_____________

I'm really sorry but I will have to stop here. My apologies again for compromising this fascinating debate. I will be flying home tomorrow and will be able to present a much more thorough round 5.

If my opponent allows me I may respond to some of his other points in the comments section but of course he would be perfectly justified in not permitting this.

My thanks and apologies again.

Feverish.
Debate Round No. 4
InquireTruth

Pro

=========
Introduction:
=========

I was sorry to see that my opponent could not commit full attention to his fourth round due to family matters. As it happens to us all, this should not be considered against him in this debate. Moreover, he may, for the benefit of discussion, respond more fully in the comments if it suits him (though they will inevitably get buried assuming this debate receives enough attention to garner comments). I will use this last round to sum up and clarify my position as it has already been stated.

=========
The Case of Tacitus:
=========

It was shown that ALL historical documents contain omissions, errors and additions. So this is never, under any historical analysis, sufficient, or at all good, reason to distrust a historical document. It is the job of the critical historian to sort through these matters.

I have also maintained that there are no good reasons for assuming that Tacitus accepted Christian tradition uncritically – inasmuch as his character as a critical historian is lauded by those who study him.

=========
The Case of Josephus:
=========

In this debate I have shown why historians believe Josephus made a genuine reference to Jesus of Nazareth. Moreover, the sources I provided for why "so-called Christ" was not a later interpolation are inherently more trustworthy given that they are, or unilaterally rely upon, historical scholars – not amateur blogging literature.

=========
Insufficient Time:
=========

This point was NEVER adequately addressed. I maintained that it is historically ignorant to believe it possible for a formulated Jesus myth to have easily surfaced and promulgated so soon after the supposed events. That is to say, people would have known it was demonstrably false given that primary sources of verification were readily available.

=========
The Rule of Parsimony:
=========

This point is a powerful one and was very obscurely shrugged off by my opponent. Since denying the historicity of Jesus is tantamount to making many unfounded assumptions that are poised against contradicting evidence and are based on little or no evidence at all, it is observably less parsimonious then maintaining that at least one of the assumptions listed in my round 3 are incorrect.

=========
The Case of Paul:
=========

I have shown that there is great textual evidence for believing that Paul believed in a literal, human Jesus – my opponent's assertions notwithstanding. My opponent has resorted to making the empty assertion that we are somehow justified in assuming that things that contradict his presuppositional bias were later additions, even though absolutely no textual evidence exists in favor of this position.

=========
Extrabiblical Accounts
=========

It was shown that archeological finds are continuing to affirm the biblical characters found in the New Testament. The accounts as they are found in the New Testament gain mounting evidence for their veracity virtually all the time (as the posted video sought to demonstrate). Given that the Bible records many now established historical figures – many of whom were first known through the Bible – there exists no good reasons for believing that Jesus was a fictitious character inserted into a generally reliably accurate historical narrative.

=========
The Bible:
=========

I asked my opponent what good reasons we have for disregarding the history in the Gospels and not any other ancient sources that contain inherently less evidence, fewer and younger manuscripts, and rely on secondary sources. He responded by asserting that it is because they are religious in nature.
The first problem with this, is that all ancient historical sources contain elements of religion or the supernatural. Moreover, the gospels are not religious in "nature." In fact, they are purported as historical accounts and are therefore HISTORICAL in nature.

The point of any unbiased historical model is that, when applied, it can accurately sort through what is most plausibly historical and what is not. The unfortunate problem here for my opponent, is that when any historical model that is used on other ancient sources is used on the Bible, the historicity of the biblical claims ring true by leaps and bounds. Even when a completely biased historical hermeneutic is applied (think The Jesus Seminar), the conclusion is that (1) Jesus existed and (2) a few parceled sayings can be ascribed to him.

When my opponent claimed that historians do NOT view the New Testament as historical, I pointed this out as patently absurd – as any Google search or Amazon perusal will rightly confirm. New Testament historians (many secular) have created a very specific lens for which they use to determine historical reliability:

"New Testament historians have developed quite a number of so-called criteria of authenticity for discerning the historical about Jesus, such as multiple attestation, dissimilarity to Christian teaching, linguistic Semitisms, traces of Palestinian milieu, retention of embarrassing material, coherence with other authentic material, and so forth. These criteria do not presuppose the general reliability of the Gospels. Rather they focus on a particular event or saying of Jesus and provide evidence for thinking that specific element of Jesus' life to be historical, regardless of the general reliability of the document in which the particular saying or event is reported. These same criteria are thus applicable to reports of Jesus found in the apocryphal Gospels, or rabbinical writings, or even the Qur'an (1)."

The reason other sacred texts are NOT typically used as historical by modern historians is that they FAIL specific historical criteria. The reason I kept asking my opponent to answer my question regarding the historical model he uses to discount the veracity of the New Testament, is precisely because there are NO good reasons for regarding the Gospels as generally unreliable according to any unbiased historical model. In fact, my opponent failed to give any specific historical criterion for which the Gospels fail – his religious by "nature" quip notwithstanding.

There are a wide range of established historical facts that very much appreciate the overwhelming affirmation of the majority of New Testament scholarship today – the literal, actual existence of Jesus is, of course, one of those established facts.

=========
Conclusion:
=========

In this debate my opponent was not able to cast plausible doubt on the existence of Jesus. I have established the veracity of the Bible by any fair standard and that the Rule of Parsimony dictates that such a person as Jesus of Nazareth probably existed. Moreover, I have provided adequate reasons for believing that a formulated Jesus myth could not have formed and spread given its environment (or at least that it was very unlikely that it would). I also established that there are not good reasons for disregarding extrabiblical attestation for Jesus (Tacitus, Josephus, Suetonius, Pliny, Thallus, Talmud, and Acts of Pilate). Again, I would like to thank my opponent for a fascinating debate, and I hope the readers have enjoyed this debate as much as I have!

=========
Sources:
=========
1. http://www.reasonablefaith.org...
http://www.christiancourier.com...
http://www.str.org...

Thank you,
InquireTruth
feverish

Con

Much thanks again to InquireTruth for the fantastic debate. It has been a pleasure to debate someone of your ability and conviction.

My opponent's burden in this debate has been to present enough evidence and reason to establish the probability that Jesus existed, while mine has been to demonstrate the doubt and uncertainty surrounding this supposed evidence.

I think it would be unfair of me to make any new arguments in this final round as my opponent would not be able to respond to them. Instead I will merely attempt to summarise the debate.

_____

Tacitus and Josephus:

These two fragments of writing from long after the alleged life of Jesus are the only historical references to Jesus that my opponent presents as evidence.

As we have seen there is doubt and scepticism among scholars on both sides about whether either of these texts can be regarded as reliable or meaningful confirmation of the existence of Jesus.

We have examined the errors and alterations in the Tacitus passage and the contextual irregularity of the Josephus extract. There is a precedent for additions and alterations made to historical texts by the catholic church as seen elsewhere in the works of Josephus as well as the epistles of Paul.

My opponent acknowledges other alterations but will not accept that these could likely be further examples. This is of course because there is so little written history to suggest Jesus ever existed, that these two weak and disputed alleged references are championed by some Christian scholars as conclusive proof. When the silence is deafening, any potential whisper is valuable.

_______

Insufficient Time:

This point WAS never adequately addressed, which was partly my fault for my cut-off 4th round but I believe that my opponent didn't make this argument clear until late on in the debate.

I now understand that what my opponent has been hinting at is that people would not have believed the story of Jesus as preached by Paul and the other early Christians.

It is too late to respond to this point in full now but I believe it is entirely insubstantial as there are plenty of cases of people doubting and questioning the story of Jesus both in the New Testament itself as well as documented evidence of Gnostic groups that denied an Earthly human Christ.

___________

Parsimony:

If I have appeared to be "shrugging off" this point it is because it is a very vague one with no real substance to it.

To maintain either position with certainty requires a number of assumptions to be made and it is my opponent who has made the assertion that needed to be proved.

In his summary my opponent accuses me of <<"making many unfounded assumptions that are poised against contradicting evidence and are based on little or no evidence at all">> but the exact same could be said of my opponent's position and I believe I have backed up and provided ample evidence for every point I have made.

__________

Paul:

My opponent claims that <<"there is great textual evidence for believing that Paul believed in a literal, human Jesus".>>

In fact as we have seen there is actually very little, hence the so-called 'argument from silence'.

There are though plenty of passages in Paul's epistles that make far more sense when considered in the context of a purely symbolic Christ, as I have demonstrated.

Since these are the first of all Christian documents and were written mere decades after the supposed death of Jesus, the 'silence' is most deafening and most relevant here.

________

Extrabiblical accounts:

All my opponent has proved here is further evidence for the existence of characters portrayed in the Bible, who's historical existence has not been in question. These are well-known public figures and although none of them performed feats equivalent to Jesus, there is plenty of historical evidence for them existing. This should tell us something.

________

The Bible:

In this debate my opponent has attempted to present the New Testament and in particular the Gospels as if they carry the same historical weight as independent, non-religious and un-biased historical accounts.

He says: <<"all ancient historical sources contain elements of religion or the supernatural.">>

I beg to differ, sources such as the non-biblical ones cited in this debate do not make claims of divinity or describe seemingly miraculous events. The gospels also describe many events which are historically false or scientifically impossible. For a brief list of some of these see my round 2 above.

He goes on to claim that <<"the gospels are not religious in "nature." In fact, they are purported as historical accounts and are therefore HISTORICAL in nature.">>

This seems ludicrous to me. How can documents that purport to identify the son of God and which are composed mostly of references to holy scripture be regarded as more historical than religious. Real historical texts do not make these kinds of claims.

<<"the historicity of the biblical claims ring true by leaps and bounds.">>

The census? The slaughter of the innocents? a burial site? No, most of the claims ring hollow.

My opponent has enjoyed calling my arguments and my sources biased and/or amateurish while linking to Christian bloggers but it is only a biased perspective that could ignore the clearly false historical claims in the Bible while saying: <<"The reason other sacred texts are NOT typically used as historical by modern historians is that they FAIL specific historical criteria.">>

__________

Conclusion:

I don't believe my opponent has presented enough evidence or us to assume a strong probability for Jesus. The lack of concrete historical proof is overwhelming and examination of the texts we do have raises more questions than answers.

This has been a fascinating topic for me to research and I hope that it has been a thought provoking debate for all concerned. I also hope that people will vote according to the proper debate categories rather than their personal opinions on the existence of Jesus.

Thanks for reading.

Con.
Debate Round No. 5
26 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Lexicaholic 7 years ago
Lexicaholic
No Prob. :)
Posted by InquireTruth 7 years ago
InquireTruth
Oh wow. Thank you for pointing those out!
Posted by Lexicaholic 7 years ago
Lexicaholic
Sure:

1. RD1: 'Identify' instead of 'identity', 'by' instead of 'be'
2. RD4: 'Reaming', 'intellectual' instead of 'intellectually', 'estranged' instead of 'strange', 'plurality' instead of 'plural'
3. 'parceled' to Jesus probably should have just been 'attributed' to Jesus ...

Those were the big ones. Minor spelling errors and typos, which I usually define as a lack of connectors or articles, I ignored.
Posted by InquireTruth 7 years ago
InquireTruth
Thx for the RFD, Lex. Could you be so kind as to point out my wholly incorrect word choices. Given that I typically like to reuse my arguments, it would be best that I fix those mistakes (I mean this honestly - there is always room for improvement).
Posted by Lexicaholic 7 years ago
Lexicaholic
Good debate (until the second to last round anyway). Here's my RFD:

1. Before: Pro. I have always been inclined to believe that there was sufficient evidence for Jesus to be a real historical person, at least as much as most great figures of antiquity.
2. After: Pro. I am still convinced that there was likely a real person behind Christianity, although likely the name would differ from the 'Jesus' we are familiar with today.
3. Conduct: Tied. Pro was subtly insulting, as usual, but Con pretty much skipped out on the argument near the end.
4. S&G: Con. Pro made numerous spelling and grammatical errors, especially earlier in the debate. Con also made a few mistakes, but they did not quite leap out as much as Pro's, being often mere typos rather than wholly incorrect word choices.
5. Argument: Pro. Con established that the burden was 'reasonable doubt.' However, I actually agree with Pro that religious texts should not be discounted as historical documents barring contrary archeological evidence. I would think that a general difficulty in authenticating historical accounts would apply across the board as against all similar historical documents, religious or secular, with political bias simply being par for the course. The rather high number of documented accurate historical depictions in any one book of the Bible should not be conflated to support the veracity of other books (because they have very different authors who would have had different standards) but in general it is not a wholly inaccurate collection of documents (which is not to say that it must be accepted as true, but that it may serve as evidence for historical truth with other supporting evidence or be impeached given conflicting evidence ... just like a modern affidavit might be). In determining whether or not Jesus was true 'beyond a reasonable doubt' I think that the biblical accounts of his life when coupled with the available evidence seem to suggest that the answer is 'yes.'
6. Sources
Posted by InquireTruth 7 years ago
InquireTruth
Okay
Posted by feverish 7 years ago
feverish
Probably yes but not for a little while, I'm a bit Bibled out at the moment and there's some other topics I'm keen to debate. Perhaps in a few weeks?
Posted by InquireTruth 7 years ago
InquireTruth
As a sort of addendum debate, Feverish, I've resolved to challenge you to a debate on the general reliability of the Gospels. Would you accept this debate?
Posted by feverish 7 years ago
feverish
As I said below: "While it wouldn't necesarrily invalidate a historical text entirely it should certainly make us question it". This should especially be the case if the texts are drawing on and attempting to update and reclarify existing religous texts as in the case of the New Testament.
Posted by Freeman 7 years ago
Freeman
"what I am trying to ask is whether or not you think all ancient texts that posit god(s) or in some way presuppose the existence of supernaturalism ought to be disregarded as having any sort of historical merit?"

The supernatural stories of these texts ought to be disregarded. With this understanding, one ought to be skeptical of the historicity of something like the resurrection or the ascension.
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